Dependent elderly people are adversely affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa

Research Activities, December 2010, No. 364

HIV/AIDS has dramatically changed the social landscape of sub-Saharan Africa. Many children have died from the infection and more than 12 million have been orphaned after their parents died from the disease. Elderly family members are often the sole caregivers of these children. In turn, the elderly people have lost their own family support with the deaths of their adult children, leaving many to weather the problems of old age alone. These are the findings of a new study by researchers at the University of Chicago and Stanford University.

The researchers examined how 3 different measures of living arrangements for older people over the age of 60 were affected by HIV/AIDS by analyzing demographic and health surveys in 22 sub-Saharan African countries from 1991 to 2006. They studied the relationship between the epidemic and how many older individuals were living alone; how many were living with only dependent children under the age of 10 ("missing generation" households); and the number of adults aged 18-59 (prime-age adults) who were in households where older people lived.

According to the researchers, an increase of 1 death from HIV/AIDS per 1,000 people resulted in a 1.5 percent increase in the proportion of older individuals living by themselves and a 0.4 increase in the proportion of older individuals living with only dependent children. In 2006, AIDS-related deaths accounted for 582,200 to 917,000 elderly people living alone and another 141,000 to 323,100 living with only dependent children. Elderly persons living without the support of prime-age adults were typically female, had not completed primary school, and had a low socioeconomic status. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00028).

See "AIDS and declining support for dependent elderly people in Africa: Retrospective analysis using demographic and health surveys," by Tim Kautz, Ph.D. (cand.), Eran Bendavid, M.D., M.S., Jay Bhattacharya, M.D., Ph.D., and Grant Miller, Ph.D., M.P.P., in the British Journal of Medicine 340, c2841.

Current as of December 2010
Internet Citation: Dependent elderly people are adversely affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa: Research Activities, December 2010, No. 364. December 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/research-activities/dec10/1210RA16.html